Disney decided in 2001 to try something new by releasing a movie that was darker, explosive-filled, violent movie with no wisecracking sidekicks or musical numbers. That film was “Atlantis: The Lost Empire” which ended up being lost like the titular setting due to it being released the summer of “Shrek”‘s release as well as not being a very good film.
“Atlantis: The Lost Empire” starts off by showing people on hover vehicles avoiding an approaching wave. The wave is approaching Atlantis and as the residents panic, the queen is sucked into a bright light, saving the city, which sinks. Fast-forward to 1914 and Milo Thatch (Michael J. Fox) is desperately trying to get funding for an expedition to find “The Shepherd’s Journal,” which he believes could lead to Atlantis. He is laughed off because it’s a fairy tale, but then he comes home to find Helga Sinclair (Claudia Christian), who is supposed to be a femme fatale character. She leads him to explorer Mr. Whitmore (JOHN MAHONEY) who reveals that the journal has been found and Whitmore is going to finance an expedition to Atlantis where Milo will be an expert in gibberish.
On the expedition, Milo meets his crew mates which includes Sinclair, Commander Rourke (James Garner), Mole (Corey Burton), Dr. Sweet (Phil Morris), Vinny (Don Novello), Audrey (Jacqueline Obradors), Packard (Florence Stanley) and Cookie (Jim Varney). After several mishaps, the crew eventually finds Atlantis and is greeted/cornered by Atlantians, led by Princess Kidagakash (Cree Summer), or Kida. However, the king (Leonard Nimoy) isn’t too pleased that they’re there. After some exploring, Milo finds out that Rourke and the crew wants to find the “Heart of Atlantis” and sell it on the surface, much to Milo’s dismay.
There are many problems with “Atlantis,” the first of which happens to be the plot. First of all, we what could have been a great action movie with a “find this first” doesn’t happen. The plot could have been reminiscent of Indiana Jones movies, but instead we have a quick resolution to the plot of Milo wanting the journal. In addition, there are plot holes such as how an ancient civilization that disappeared thousand of years ago knows how to speak English. While Ramsin Canon, who was my editor at Gapers Block, suggested that this could be magic, it’s still a massive plot hole.
There’s also the problem of the film lacking in interesting characters. Even Milo isn’t a very engaging character despite being the central character. Most of the characters are archetypes, even though some don’t work. Sinclair is introduced as a femme fatale-esque character but is incredibly boxy in design compared to Kida. The only member of the crew who is interesting is Vinny and that’s mostly because of his wisecracking lines.
Finally, the film has hideous character designs. Although they’re influenced by the style of Mike Mignola, the creator of Hellboy, that style works well for comics. In this context it really doesn’t work for any of the characters except for the Atlantians and it might just be the people who were assigned to animate them. What’s worse is that watching the DVD the animation felt like a step back from not only “Tarzan,” which proceeded “Atlantis,” but also “Hercules.” The overall design of Atlantis in shots showing the overall city is quite lovely, but that’s about it.
But is Kida a Good Role Model for Children? Yes.
Kida is a strong, intelligent woman who seems to be very independent as someone who is born into royalty. In fact, when members of the expedition try to capture her, she does a great job of fighting them off. Additionally, Kida is shown to care very much for the condition of her fellow Atlantians as well as her father. She also heals Milo, a stranger to her, somewhat early in the film. Kida is a great role model for children.
However, Kida is not an official Disney Princess even though she is the member of the royal family in the film. So why might this be?
The easy answer would be that “Atlantis” performed very poorly at the box office in America. Another reason might be that the film feels like it’s geared towards young boys rather than what a typical person would think girls would like.
But another thing might be that Kida could have been a difficult character to merchandise. Granted, her main outfit for the film would be a great outfit for going to the beach, but it’s not really something that children would run around in when playing in the backyard. And while Disney has the wedding outfits for Aurora, Rapunzel and Tiana as well as Belle and Cinderella’s ballgowns, I can’t see Kida’s outfit when she’s made queen being a big seller at Disney Stores.
While we may never know why Kida is left out of the Disney Princess line, she is a terrific role model and one of the best characters in the film. Unfortunately she’s not worth sitting through the entire movie to have a good role model.